The patent disputed in the Collingwood v Aurora case covered the mounting of LED elements in thermal contact with the inside of a fire-resistant housing while the heatsink is placed outside the housing. The technology is registered by Collingwood as having been invented by its managing director Justin Maeers, but was used by Aurora in its i9 fire-rated LED downlight.
The court did not accept Aurora's defence that it was not aware of any patents for the technology, and Aurora could now face paying damages to Collingwood for sales of the infringing products.
Aurora had claimed that it 'neither knew or had reasonable grounds for supposing' that the patent existed. But the court concluded that Aurora must have been aware of at least one advertisement promoting the innovative properties of the FireLED luminaire, and that as an active company in the luminaire design field, Aurora would have been aware of how frequently new LED technology is patented. Aurora therefore should have known that a patent for the technology used in the i9 downlights was likely to exist, the court ruled.
The i9 has since been superseded by Aurora's M range of products.
Aurora said in a statement: 'Whilst we have sought permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal, the judgment does not affect any current Aurora products, and this case has no effect on a distributor’s ability to continue sales of Aurora’s existing products. Aurora has invested heavily in its own patents and continues to lead innovation in the lighting industry.'
Patent lawyer Jason Boakes of Secerna LLP told Lux: 'What this case shows is that in the LED field, if you stick your head in the sand and don’t check whether a patent has already been granted for the technology you are working on, you cannot then hope to be able to use the "innocent infringer defence" if another company claims you’ve infringed their patent. The court has acknowledged that the LED market is very busy in patent terms. As a result you’ll have to be able to argue your case very well if you want to claim you were not aware of an existing patent.'
UPDATE 12/3/14: Article amended to include statement from Aurora